By John Tracey
So here it is smack dab in the middle of the summer, and what do I have to show for it? Well, I finally finished furnishing (note alliteration technique) my apartment, and, if I do say so myself, it ROCKS. I did a death roll in a Beetle Cat (sailboat) in a 30 mph wind, surviving with minimal damage to self and boat (death roll = sailing downwind with sail all the way out, bow goes into water, doesn’t come out, stern lifts up and entire boat dumps over to windward and is then completely upside down, or “turtled” – fun stuff). I am still gainfully employed and am perfecting my summer slackass techniques with great success. After being single for seven months, I have dipped my toe into the dating pool, and I’m still alive to talk about it (not that I really want or need to talk about it). I made it through another birthday without becoming colossally depressed. In fact, it was one of the best birthdays in a long time. Well, last year at the Phoenix, after a party hosted by a certain fellow Bastille-Day Birthday Celebrator, was pretty awesome. And, oh yeah……rowing. Sorry I got a little off-message there.
The rowing thing has had its ups and downs this summer. A series of mishaps, one might say. The season began on a pretty good track. I got out almost every day, was lifting once or twice a week, doing yoga once a week, and it all felt good. I liked the borrowed Van Dusen Advantage (wing rigger) that I was using and was moving the boat pretty well. I was even allowed to practice with the young hot-shot lightweights, which was a hell of a lot of fun, even if they dusted me about half way through each piece. But hey, I stayed with them for the first half!
Anyway, things were just cruising right along. The relatively disciplined practice schedule led to a fun RBC Sprints regatta, in which my masters buddy Rudi Vanderschoot and I won our doubles race, though I got 2nd to Andy O’Brien in the single. But hey, he pulled a 6:12 erg this year!! How do 48 year olds get so strong?
But then it happened. The beginning of The Curse. I flipped the single doing a standing shove. Now, I’ve been doing standing shoves for years – longer than many of you have been rowing. The esteemed Jim Hanley at Riverside taught me how to do it, and emphasized the coolness factor. I learned and now I do it every time. One day I was so confident that, seeing Igor up on the porch with his camera, I stuck my shoving leg way up in the air after I pushed off and he got a cool picture of it. Almost looks like yoga or ballet in a boat. Almost. Anyway, I arrived on the dock one hot afternoon, and my buddies Igor & Tom are sitting there, looking kind of bored. A large motor boat goes by and leaves a substantial wake (after I had put my boat in). I said, “Ok, watch THIS – I’m going to do a standing shove INTO THAT WAKE!” Igor carefully, but very quickly, got his camera into position, thinking, “This could be good.” So into the wake I shoved, was able to sit down, but when I was trying to push off of the dock with my starboard oar, the power of the wave rolled my boat and I had nothing supporting me on the starboard side. KER-PLUNK! In I went. But hey, no big deal – I was shirtless, the water was warm, and I got right out. It was fun and made for a great photo (or series of photos, I was soon to find out).
As I came out of the water, I realized I had lost my prized prescription Oakleys, along with my Sore-No-More seat pad, without which I cannot live, or at least row. So, devastated at losing yet another pair of Oakley scripts in the Charles, I became quite despondent. Worse, the chutzpah of tempting the River Gods did not leave me. A week later, I was carrying the Van Dusen and I tripped on some oars, landing hard on my right knee and scraping the @#$* out of it. The boat landed gently on my back, and even though I had some sharp back pains for a few days, it was ok. Then my borrowed boat started having issues – the seat wheels, which had never been replaced, were grinding and I could barely move the seat. I started having dreams that I was rowing in sludge while everyone — novices, kayakers, my friends — all went flying passed me. I literally had at least two such dreams. Finally I realized I had to get that boat into the shop – it was a borrowed boat, after all, and the owner, my buddy Lee Gresham, deserved a boat in pristine condition. And besides, something karmactically (don’t look that up because I just made it up) bad was happening to me, and I needed to make some changes.
I began addressing my issues one by one. I got my old King back from Graeme’s shop, and it’s in perfect condition. It is heavier out of the water than the Van Dusen, but it feels lighter in the water! Graeme King, a naval architect by training, is an absolute genius at hull design. Second, I bought a new Sore-No-More pad. And finally, I got a new pair of Nike sunglasses. I’m saving for Oakleys, but at least I have something. And, I can rationalize the whole thing because I needed new ones anyway! My prescription needed upgrading (I now row with Coke-bottle-thick glasses). So all I really lost was the frames, which are only 25% of the total cost anyway.
I’m now ready to resume lifting, resume yoga, resume rowing every day, and submit my entry for the Charles, confident that I’ll have suitable training. Oh yeah, and the best thing that happened to reverse the curse was that Sean finally took the time-lapse video sequence of me flipping off of this site’s front page!
Happy rowing to all.
p.s. I flipped the Van Dusen on Friday the 13th, and this blog, in which I wrote about the incident, is my 13th. Coincidence?